The Dodgers’ plans in center field remain unclear the week before spring training.
On Friday, however, the team improved its depth in left, agreeing to a contract with veteran outfielder David Peralta, according to a person with knowledge of the deal not authorized to speak publicly.
The deal is reportedly for one year and will pay Peralta a base salary of $6.5 million, plus incentives that could raise his earnings to $8 million, per ESPN.
A 35-year-old left-handed hitter with a career .281 batting average and .796 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, Peralta had spent nine seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks before being traded to the Tampa Bay Rays at last year’s deadline and becoming a free agent this winter.
Peralta’s performance dipped after the move to Tampa Bay — particularly his power numbers, as he slugged just .355 and failed to hit any home runs in 47 games with the Rays.
His overall 2022 production, however, was still above league average, with an OPS+ of 109.
For the Dodgers, who are experiencing significant turnover in the outfield — and had been on the hunt for one more addition to that group to round out the offseason — Peralta provides another veteran who should bolster their depth.
Prior to Friday, the team’s uncertainty in center, where the Dodgers have yet to decide how they will replace Cody Bellinger, left their options in left field somewhat unknown as well.
Chris Taylor seemed to be the most fitting choice. But he could be needed to take over in center — and is coming off a disappointing and injury-plagued 2022 campaign.
Trayce Thompson also saw time in left field last year, though, like Taylor, is another option to move to center.
If the right-handed-hitting Thompson stays in left, he could form a platoon with Peralta, who was significantly worse against left-handed pitching last season.
The Dodgers have also taken fliers on several other veteran outfielders this winter, signing minor league deals for Jason Heyward, Bradley Zimmer and Steven Duggar. Prospect James Outman is expected to see more extended time in the majors this year as well.
All of them will get a crack at the center field competition during spring training.
Peralta has sparingly played center in his career, but his ability to slot into left should still help alleviate some of the Dodgers’ outfield concerns, giving the club one more proven option as it searches for the best combination to play alongside star right fielder Mookie Betts.
A former pitching prospect in the St. Louis Cardinals system whose future on the mound was derailed by injuries, Peralta remade himself as an outfielder with some pop during his time with the Diamondbacks.
In four of his first five seasons there, he posted an OPS of .796 or higher four times. In 2018, he set career highs in home runs (30) and RBIs (87).
Peralta’s production has tailed off ever since. Yet, he remained a coveted asset at last year’s trade deadline — the Dodgers were one of several teams linked to him before he was shipped to Tampa — and still ranked highly among big league hitters in important underlying metrics such as average exit velocity and hard hit percentage.
Like most of the Dodgers’ other acquisitions this winter, he wasn’t the flashiest name on the free-agent market and comes to Los Angeles on a short-term and relatively low-risk deal.
But at the very least, the team will be hoping he can help complete its puzzle in the outfield, and serve as one more small building block in its bid to remain a contender in a stacked National League.